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It's been a while since THE WEST WING was real essential zone-of-silence 'sssshhh-not-now' viewing (well, for me, at any rate: it got to the stage with the whole latterday 'Vinick v Santos presidential race' storyline that the previously unthinkable occurred and I happily missed whole episodes); but I tuned in this weekend, for sentimental reasons, to watch the final two episodes and a few of the old repeats that MORE 4 ran yesterday.

At its best, along with a few other shows, it reminds me why I find most Hollywood movies such hard going these days. With the latter, most of us are reduced to scrapping around in the bins behind Blockbuster franchises, trying to scare up enough good nutritous meat for a slender SUBTEXT nibble - whereas something like The West Wing proudly wore its intelligence upfront, combining in one continuum the virtues of a good bitchy but informative political blog, oldtime Hollywood Screwball dialogue, scarily informative realpolitik feed and just plain old fashioned week-2-week SOAP addictiveness. Good TV these days all but makes big time cinema redundant. Some TV critic recently - whilst praising his incredible new role in THE SHIELD, said something along the lines of - 'Why can't Hollywood find anything for Forest Whittaker to do when he is this good?' Which is to miss the point somewhat. Why pay good cash money to sit in an over heated over amplified cinema, and watch one more over formulaic Good Guys v Bad Guys plot, when you can relax at home and watch genuinely adult fare? (Post 9/11, too much Hollywood product has been scared of straying into ambiguity or moral grey areas, whereas American TV - From DEADWOOD to THE SHIELD - has gone the other way and embraced difficulty and complexity.
(Plus: with Tv you get Forest Whittaker and Ian McShane; with cinema there's always the dreadful prospect of having to sit through a Tom Cruise or Colin Farrell performance...)

In a way, THE WEST WING reversed the oldest Soap meme - the Sirk-ian/Dynasty/Dallas meme - where the world of the rich and powerful is revealed to be merely and messily and bitchily primal (booze, bedhopping, manipulative behind the scenes scene making, war by other cocktail party means). Like I say, this was reversed and the world of THESE rich, powerful people was shown to be ten times more interesting than you ever thought it could be, ten times more intellectual and humanist and ethical and caring and deep. Which was also the series besetting problem...

Whilst I dont think it's fallen off as much as series snobs say, the writing never did quite regain the sharpness pioneered by creator Aaron Sorkin - and when you werent distracted by the sharpness of individual subplots, it was easier to get just a WEE bit irked by how essentially ridiculously CLOUD 9 the whole thing was. When Sorkin left, the Democratic Wet Dream factor kinda went into overdrive. When Sorkin was still there, the scripts werent frightened of showing a lot of the peachy dramatis personae at their basest and most compromised and just-scraping-through, as well as their shiniest and sassiest and most impregnably immovably principled. I mean - the final Presidential race just took the STAR TREK factor too far: not only did you have the first ever Latino Presidential candidate (improbably good looking, virtous, principled, strong, etc, etc, i.e., everything no Democrat has been within sniffing distance of for decades) but here in this Wizard of Oz version of American politics, even his Republican foe was improbably virtuous, principled, strong, etc, etc - things which would actually get you kicked out of the GOP if you were even suspected of thinking about them on a lazy Sunday off.

President Jimmy Smits then offers ex foe Alan Alda a job in his administration fer crissakes .... meanwhile, in the real world, even bloggers of vaguely different stripes can't get along, never mind politicians. And the Democrats are so scared stiff of Being Not Liked by the electorate, that they just blithely and spinelessly go along with every next proto-Fascist move the Bush administration inititiates. (HOW ON EARTH could they not have made more of New Orleans, and the various other mis steps by the Bushies?) At such times the West Wing - compared with the horrors and hates of real life - felt like ludicrously mushy fantasy; which it always was, but when it didnt have the balast of snappily cynical hard-wiring in the dialogue, then it could start to feel just a tad TOO unreal. At a time when America was divided by so called 'Culture war' issues, it could seem almost TOO all-out designed to comfort Democrats and piss off Republicos ...

In real life, the REAL face of American politics would be someone like ... KENNETH STARR.
... Incredible documentary tucked away on on ITV 4, Friday, 10.00: THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT [2004] - again, not that it was anything one didnt already know or suspect, but pretty devastating to see it all presented in one place. A far far superior and far more damning indictment of the Republican party than anything the overrated Michael Moore has put sloppily together, but anyway ... let's not get sidelined.

I could write more in this vein - different views of what TWW was trying to do, and what it actually acheived. But I missed my moment really, as it's been a while since I truly flat out loved it. Although it was worth tuning in to the pen-ultimate episode, just for a scene between my ALL TIME FAVOURITE character, Toby [Ziegler], and CJ [Craig], where - more with looks than with the actual words used - the lineaments of their friendship were surveyed for one last time. Toby was like a heterosexual Gore Vidal - a more rabbinical Jon Stewart, a decent scotch drinking, decent book reading, but fascinatingly flawed character. Toby sorta became the default fallback compensation for all us ferrety nerdy intellectuals who grew up loving Jewish and especialy Jewish American culture/ethics, in a time when Israel and Jewish-American hawks broke our hearts.

A lot of The West Wing at its best was about friendship - which, along with talk about abstract issues by very literate people, was just one of the crazy things that distinguished it from 98% of sloppy make-do pop cultural product these days. Mostly, in even good-ish TV, the 'relationships' centre around sex, or love, or family, and people are either falling in, or falling out, of same, in classic Soap Opera fashion. (Emmerdale Farm does this sort of thing really well at the moment - probaly better than most other soaps. Altho I say this on the rather slim evidence of having watched ONE Emmerdale omnibus edition and NO other soaps for a few years.) Whereas I just realised that one of the things that distiguishes and unites my favourite TV at the moment (West Wing, the glorious repeats on ITV 3 of both later-series ROCKFORD FILES and the fantastic LOVEJOY, certain bits of The Shield, certain bits of Homicide: Life on the Streets) is its interest in the mechanics of friendship ... and, within that, memory, passing time, ageing. Some of the best Rockford Files concern old friends Jim knew from prison, and the sometimes awkward, sometimes fateful fallout from the 'debt' of such friendship. In LOVEJOY (I'd forgotten just how much I love this programme!), if he ever falls for a woman most viewers are subconsciously muttering O, come on, get it over with! - so we can get back to Tinker and Lady Jane and the lovely pulse within the strange zone of unspoken Albionate freindship they represent.

Actually, before I forget: I didnt set out to write any of this...!

I only really logged on to note one detail in the final WEST WING episode - which was 85% borderline way too tacky and sentimental and mushy. The giveaway were the references to JFK - batted back and forth between Smits and Sheen on the way to the inauguration. (Like, if the Democrats could only merge the essence of Smits and Sheen - they'd get the JFK mk 2 they so desperately need, or think they need, or think they remember, etc.)

But in amongst this treacle fest of piety and improbable goodness and long teary eyed stares at empty rooms, etc (altho, unusally, I didnt cry once - a bad sign, given that I cry at anything these days, I cry at certain adverts ...) there was one little conceptual letter bomb slotted in by writer or director. In the midst of the inauguration, the removal men come in to take away the family possessions and distinguishing marks of the Bartlet family/administration, and replace them seamlessly with those of the incoming Santos family/administration. Now, many viewers would miss the detail, or even if they caught it, it wouldnt have meant anything much to them... but there was a mili second CLOSE UP, where a removal man is taking Bartlet's books off the shelves in the Oval room. We only get to see the spine of one book - and even then, not the title (I dont think so, at any rate, altho younger, more eagle eyed readers/viewers might like to correct me). And it's not TOM CLANCY, or a JFK biography or Maya Angelou poetry, or Whitman, or Machiavelli or anything you might expect....

Readers, the name on that spine was ... MICHEL FOUCAULT.

Now, I think that's something for a squishy prime time TV show.
Especially as, if you take the reference seriously, what it seems to be saying is a corrective to the remaining 99% sentimentality of the episode/series.

I.e., what the reference seems to be saying is of the order of a kind of PLUS CA CHANGE about the institutionalisation of Power.... like, OK, BIG FUCKIN DEAL, one Nice Guy is leaving, another is coming in, but whats really changed huh? Power doesnt care, Power just keeps rolling noiselessly seamlessly on ... or, at any rate, that would seem, to me, to be the only point in going to the trouble of putting the spine of a MICHEL FOUCAULT book up there on the screen at such a crucial (& literal) juncture of the plot. Final episode no less.

It was almost like - POP! wake up from your dream, children! Back to the real world now...! Where the US administration is not having smoochy conversations with idealistic young black men, but is arming Israel to bomb the shit out of humanitarian aid convoys, etc, etc, etc ... O, dont get me fuckin started...)

(ON which note, two points and then I'll shut up. More because my heart is weary and I cant take much more than anything else, but anyway...

Point One. Get beyond the sheer obscenity of what the US/Israel has been doing the last few weeks and there is also ... how STUPID an example was it to set? How many very very UN benign dictators and would-be dictators around the world have been sitting giggling to themselves like schoolgirls the last fortnight, thinking, 'We-hell ... the next time I want to bomb or machete or torture the shit of of some paltry ethnic minority either within or just bordering my country who the fuck's gonna stop me? The US? Yeah - RIGHT! How hypocritical will THEY look? The UN? Dont make me laugh ...'
This example could haunt the US for decades - not that they give a shit, but still ...

Point Two. Uh - I've forgotten point two. I'm sure it will come back, but meanwhile, prize for most mealy mouthed piece of nonsense spoken (outside of diplomatic and political circles) this week goes to Oliver Stone, talking up World Trade Center: "It's not about the World Trade Center, really. It's about any man or woman faced with the end of their lives." Yeah, right. This is one end of an peculiarly American hypocrisy/sentimentality, the other (loaded) end of which means any atrocity committed in the name of the spectral War on terror can be spun as, at base, really, about the triumph of Good over Evil.

posted by Ian 7/30/2006 07:46:00 AM

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Bush on stem cell research - he is agin it because it "crosses a moral boundary" by its "taking of innocent human life"... which is a further clarification of the Bolton Position: not only is there no "moral equivalence" between Israeli/American victims and Lebanese/Palestinians; but a squirmy lump of non-sentient human cells - IF AMERICAN - has more value than literally hundreds of dead Lebanese children.

Again: thanks for the clarification.

{Different kind of clarification here ...

posted by Ian 7/22/2006 10:23:00 AM

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"In the Judeao-Christian tradition there is a commandment to be hospitable to strangers since one has been a stranger before. Deuteronomy 5 tells the Israelites to remember that they were slaves in the land of Egypt and therefore should accept those that come to them as guests in an unconditional way.

The second notion of hospitality comes from the prophets who urged a general openness to be shown to widow, orphan and alien. In Jewish families a place is kept free for Elijah who may or may not come. Hospitality keeps an empty space, an openness is open to the radically Other. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews 13:2 there is a commandment on hospitality. 'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it'.

This 'impossible' of which Derrida speaks is inseparable from the thinking of justice and from the unconditional hospitality that is required of us. Hospitality focuses on what is most urgent today and the most proper for the articulation of a political ethics of conflict resolution. The unconditional injunction for conflict resolution is: 'I have to welcome the Other' - whoever 'the Other' is, and unconditionally. For Derrida this means, without asking for a document, a name, a context or a passport. I have to open myself to the Other. I have to open my doors, my house, my home, my language, my culture, my nation, my state and myself .

This unconditional hospitality is frightening and transgressive, but it takes us beyond the Judeao-Christian understanding of hospitality where we are hospitable because we may be entertaining Elijah or Angels or serving Jesus or dogmatically serving our parishioners. It takes us beyond Kant with his notion of restricted hospitality that says we should welcome the stranger or the foreigner to the extent that they are citizens of another country."

FROM: Conflict, Tolerance and Hospitality, by Marko Zlomislic

{and, more, further}

... and let's not forget what's happening in GAZA}

posted by Ian 7/19/2006 12:02:00 PM
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Well, at least one American politico has come right out and said what 98.9% of them think:

US ambassador John Bolton dismisses any "moral equivalence" between dead Lebanese or Palestinians, and dead Israelis:

"It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense," Bolton noted.

He does not, mind you, go on to explain how a mini bus full of civilians say or pic-nicing families or Lebanese schoolchildren or civilian businesses constitute such an awesome threat to Israel, the fourth most powerful military state in the world. But at least the tacit racism that underlies all US-Israeli sandbagging is exposed for all to hear.

Some trick, when all's said and done: to blow up hospitals and trucks full of medical supplies and children at play in refugee camps (all of which happened today) ... and STILL come on confidently with the Moral High Ground tone of voice...

Menawhile, Hilary Clinton makes clear the moral and intellectual and ideological rigour and fearless oppositionality of the Democrat Party:

She said all Americans were standing behind Israel at this time, and applauded the Bush administration's support of the Jewish state in the current crisis [...] 'We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing up for American values as well as Israeli ones."

Again, not that we didn't already know, but nice to have it spelled out.

posted by Ian 7/19/2006 11:37:00 AM
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Meanwhile, Iraq gets demoted to the kind of 'ah well' fifth place that deaths in Northern Ireland once occupied for decades at a time; even tho this may well prove to have been a pivotal week, in which scrappy internecine sniping was allowed to turn the corner into terrible all out Civil War ...

MORE here;

posted by Ian 7/19/2006 08:37:00 AM
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My favourite quote yesterday re the Middle East was from a rather impressively urbane Syrian minister/spokesman (I didnt manage to scribble down his name, sorry), who, in response to some twat-head 'neutral' question, purred: "Ah, but what you have to understand is... History didn't begin six days ago." The naive fool! Just look at how hype/trend fixated even the broadsheets are (full of articles "on" other articles about WAGS etc, as tho not initiating the playground idiocy, only joining in the chorus of 'nuh-nuh-nuh-NUH-nuh!' the next day at lunchbreak, constituted some sort of Savonarola-esque distance): they could have a legend printed above the fold, reading: "History began late yesterday...."

Imagine two t-shirts: one sez "Yo, Blair" - n every hipster laffs, 'Ha ha ha!: THAT's f-u-n-n-y! I must get one of those ...'; and one sez "HISTORY DIDNT BEGIN SIX DAYS AGO" It's the sort of line which, if tranposed into L.E.D. by some 27 year old working from an ex-dairy in Hackney, would doubtless win the Turner Prize; but it should be flashed across the top of every TV newsflash report from the Middle East.... *

*{I was reading books yesterday about the 19th Century roots of Zionism; and also - complete ad hoc coincidence - about lingering anti-Semitism in Poland after the end of WW2, and the whole confused, messy, tragic transition of Poland then, in which the heroic underground resistance in that country were (literally) sold down the river by western Leaders who took Uncle Joe Stalin for some sort of Enid Blyton type maiden aunt or s/t...; but in both cases it shocked me precisely how little I knew about the crucial and founding detail of recent History; I mean, yes, I know the broad strokes OK and everything, but often the broad strokes can be the 'Yo, Blair...' that hides the dark and complex truth ...

posted by Ian 7/19/2006 08:04:00 AM

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I'd just finished putting a COMMENT below about how I preferred the deliberately (?) 'flat' comic book FX of THE HULK to the more hyper real blockbuster norm... when Entertainment Tonight [SKY 3, 10.55] launched into an on-set report on Oliver Stone's forthcoming World Trade Center... and how some of the actual NYC rescue workers had been "flown to a Hollywood sound stage" where "what they found was so realistic they couldnt believe their eyes..."

Now, I can't (yet) articulate this fully in a snappy Zizek way, but something about this strikes me as obscene. Obscene in and of itself, before we even get into a politics of recuperation under way here (a different kind of 'rescue'), which duly issued forth in teary eyed (but gruff, stolid, manly) declarations about "some good among the ruins" and how this blockbuster was a "tribute to the thousands that died" (what, including the terrorists?).

Cue clip of rescue worker shakily writing a goodbye note in the dust and wreckage ("I LOVE you" - except LOVE here becomes a HEART symbol, presumably in deliberate echo of the long time New York advertising gimmick), and an avalanche (sorry) of syrupy glutinous gut curdling strings as one rescue worker asks another if he can "still see the light?" This combo of hyper real reconstruction and bargain basement cliche epitomises the kind of macho sentimentalisation I was talking about the other day... it brings to mind all those hypocritical articles written in the immediate aftermath, in which media 'workers' mimed self absement and promised: NEVER AGAIN. Never again media triviality, supposedly. Yeah, right. World War 3 is gearing up in the Middle East right now and the media is WAG COCAINE SHAME and Big Brother idiocy and Is Anne Coulter A Man? (I mean - I'm not distancing myself here, I'm as bad as anyone else, or, if I'm not, it's only measured in minute degrees of relative seperation.)

Who will play Oliver Stone for all the dead Lebanese civilians? What greetings-card notion of "light" is searched for in smouldering ruins and refugee camps and bombed out cities across the Middle East, today?

One of the many things that is so infuriating about Israeli actions here, is that they seem almost designed to reap another few decades of mirror-image hatred and conflict. They could just inflict strategic wounds and so called 'targeted' assassinations' of (at a stretch) 'legitimate' targets. But by decimating the conditions of ordinary social and working life, and by producing so many grieving sons and fathers, they have effectively insured the next generation or two of 'terrorists' for themselves and made targets of their own civilian population. A politics of 'Hate thy neighbour' plays out with armed men standing safe and secure behind the tattered screen of cowering civilians.

Meanwhile, the G8 leaders talk about measures to be put in place in Beirut that will "give Israel a reason" not to carry on with its attacks. This stripe of language, too, is almost unfeasibly obscene. (Try it out in a conversation with some Lebanese - or indeed Canadian - mother or father who's just lost their home and entire family: oh, sorry, but we're just digging around and staining our combined brain power to come up with something we can take to Israel on bended knees that is a "reason" they shouldnt blow the unholy shit out of whatever pic nicing or beach attending or dinner serving family of civilians it picks out of the stagnant air this week...

If Israel were to stick to strategic targets (Hamas, Hezbollah) it would be one thing. (All talk of contexts and precedents in the long historical grind aside, for a hypothtical moment.) But a situation in which it deliberately seeks the fear and humiliation of civilians and the suspension of civilian life, in a neighbouring sovereign state, should be called for what it is - terrorism, plain and simple.

And the least of all tragedies procured here, might be loss of a certain faith - how for someone like me who grew up (properly: grew, assimilated, learned) with his head in certain modernist books, something like 89% of my 'ethical' world view was produced by imbibing Jewish culture in one form or another. Thus falls another sort of grief, pining, angry, confused, within my very soul.

posted by Ian 7/17/2006 10:59:00 AM
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Only just caught up with Ang Lee's THE HULK this afternoon, on ITV 2.

Now, I know I'm precipitously late on the scene and all, and a flaming hypocrite to boot (re: my dissing Zizeck-ian knee-jerk know-all anlyses of new films, yes yes) but - it is an allegory about the George Bushes, pere & fils, and how this Oedipal legacy has been played out geopolitically in the Middle East, mais oui ou non?

{My only real problem with the film, was that I kept expecting Eric Bana to break out in the unforgettably broad Aussie accent he sported in Chopper - which, coincidentally, I just loved to bits, and looks like being the first 'new release' or contemporary film I actually make a point of tracking down and buying on DVD ...

posted by Ian 7/17/2006 01:31:00 AM
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More Questions than Answers ...

posted by Ian 7/17/2006 01:30:00 AM

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This is priceless.
Letcher [see below] mentions a mid-Sixties play called (what else) eh? (written by one Henry Livings, and starring in the original production, Donald Sinden and David Warner), in which a young layabout uses an old dank factory to grow a crop of magic mushrooms - which are accidentally eaten by the factory's workforce, with the result that the factory (echoes of If.... here, Mark) is "destroyed in the ensuing chaos."
I'll let Letcher take up the story.
"Four years later the play was made into a film, Work is a Four Letter Word (1968) ... directed by Peter Hall and a strong contender for the tag of 'worst film ever made'. It is now hard to come by, but one of its few highlights occurs when a young Cilla Black - Liverpudlian pop singer at the time, later doyenne of Saturday evening light entertainment, and now national treasure - clutches a mushroom and with delirious eyes declares that 'God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and its circumference nowhere'.
Has no one thought to sample this momentous and pithy exposition?

posted by Ian 7/15/2006 06:03:00 PM
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I've been pretty sniffy with (if not downright dismissive of) the last few 'drug' books I've read or had to review (including the one I was most looking forward to reading, Sadie Plant's), but here's something I can thoroughly recommend:
SHROOM: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom, by Andy Letcher [Faber & Faber]

The title, and the cover print of a well known 'still' from Alice in Wonderland made me inwwardly groan a bit, and I expected just another lazy run through of the hand-me-down History, with all the usual boxes ticked. But this is a critical history, and Letcher takes nothing and no one at face value. He goes back over the myths and mythologies - and the perpetrators of same - and subjects them to a long overdue scholarly exegesis. There are highly critical (but balanced) deconstructions of, inter alia, the lore and legacies of Gordon Wasson and Terence McKenna. Like I say, the book's roots are in steely gimlet-eyed scholarly research - but it's written in lovely, loping, UN-academic prose, that keeps you utterly engaged like a faint sniff in the ozone of some yearned for Soma.

Letcher's trick and charm is that he retains essential 'faith', as it were, in aspects of the psychedelic experience, but clears the ceremonial ground of all the accumulated rubbish and gossip and untruth. (He's very good for instance, on how the notion of the 'shaman' is pretty much a trick-of-the-light Western construct, an Orientalist imagining, or, at most, an exploitative and wrong-headedly Romantic traducing of the far murkier and more diffuse reality.)

I actually only finish about 1 in every dozen books I start these days, so disappointing do I find most published work; this is turning out to be one of those I not only finish, but reread while still reading it (if that makes sense), and one of those books I start copying out quotes from and sending off to interested friends and correspondents.

One Letcher para this morning about how the dubious notion of the 'shaman' gradually transformed into the Romantic idea of Artists as "outsiders, set apart by their unique, inherent sensibility or genius, suffering for their art but only so that they could affect, transform and momentarily elevate audiences to their own level through the brilliance of their vision and the creative force that flowed through them..." made me think about a lot of the things we've all been saying (or thinking) about Syd B in the last few days.

What's left out of the account of course (with Nick Drake and others, too) is the dark and grubby, suicidal and unceasing pain that is the other, twilight side of occasional illumination. (And the constant spectre of any addiction.) This is where the analogy goes wrong - because if shamen there were, they were healers, starting with themselves. Any 'flight' into the Beyond was taken within severely circumscribed rules and boundaries, and usually as part of a tight knit and supportive community. 'Shamen' per se were as much like tribal employees, local GPs, as they were any kind of superstar 'soul doctor'. They didnt blow open a whole in the social atmosphere - they kept it safe and functioning and functional.

More fanciful readings of Mad Syd and Saint Nick sometimes propose a kind of quasi-Christic function for their downfall - that they died (or died into madness) so we didnt have to. A more accurate reading might be that their over sensitive radar equipment picked up on what lay ahead... and that far from being special cases, outsider pariah exemplars, they stand in for the tens and teens of thousands of nice British children who were to come, losing a supposedly golden inheritance to depression, addiction and disillusionment. Pastoral utopia become care-in-the-community atopia or foil wrapped dystopia. Part of the lure of the Nick/Syd mythos is of inbetween places and inbetween times I think ... all the long unbearable everyday days and nights that are neither crushing pain black or lucy in the skies diamond white - which is what makes all those later, latter day photos of Syd so improbably poignant. He very much wasn't a 'recluse', insofar as that much abused word still has any residual meaning...

For here he is on his bike, and its not a psychedelic bike, its just one part of a picture of one of those chilly but sunny October days we all know and love so well, along with Sainsburys bag, warm gloves, and local newspapers ...; a nothing special day, a day in which we probably waste more time than we dutifully put it to use, a day of Rolos and fags and endless cups of tea before the TV, maybe a little housework, maybe a lot of staring out the window musing on times gone by, a few old records playing wistfully in the background.

"You'll lose your mind at play..."

posted by Ian 7/15/2006 12:20:00 PM

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17.05, on the History Channel, series about the revolutionary Sixties.

A characteristically smug Tariq Ali, talking about Vietnam protest and specifically Grosvenor Sq.: "Oooooh yes, John Lennon later told me that Brian Epstein forbade them from turning up, because he said they couldnt then go and do their big concerts in the USA..."

I'm sorry? 1968? What "concerts" were The Beatles playing at this stage, anywhere? Let's not even go into the fact that Brian Epstein died in ... 1967.

posted by Ian 7/14/2006 05:09:00 PM
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I was really looking forward to watching the new series opener of one of my all time favourite TV progs, BAD GIRLS*, last night... and then it was all spoiled for me by a glimpse of a trailer. They'd decided to be 'topical' and 'meaningful' by putting a Muslim Woman Prisoner in amongst the slags and dykes and space cadets... I just couldnt watch it. In fact, I can't watch anything that has plots or sub plots about 9/11, Etc in it ... take the forthcoming Oliver Stone movie World Trade Center (sic): this kind of rugged, unfocussed sentimentality is what occurs in our society instead of Thinking. A mediasmic mirror perhaps, to the East's sentimentality of martyrdom? Except here, your 'after life' will be as a mention in a cop drama or family sit com or po mo Towering Inferno blockbuster.

I like a lot of what Momus has to say about Syd, and Syd imitators, and MOJO magazine and rock's Museum culture. Maybe one area not touched upon is TIME. When you think how mid to late 60s groups recorded whole albums in an afternoon or whatever, it made of the pop 45 a distant cousin of Improv - somewhere, in fact, between Deep South Porch strummed Blues, AMM type Improv and a kind of teenybopper performance art, where 'artlessness' was the key (or qui vive). No camp, no irony - just a shot straight through the ear/eye to the head n heart.
When LSD was added to the mix it produced 45s of astonishing economy (or echo-nomy) (domine). In this day and age where bands can take years to produce their album, and can have between 50 and 70 minutes worth of CD time, and can set up digital studio in their bedroom and so on and so forth, it seems like 'we have ALL the TIME in the world'... but it somehow turns out wrong, or not quite right. We have too much time, and therefore can never quite inhabit Time and make a genuinely untimely sound ... which may indeed be one reason the culture of 45s has withered...? [NB: This is all off the top of my head, a pop up speculation...]

This goes back as well to what I was saying about a time when you had to WAIT for the weekly music press, or WAIT for 45s to turn up in your local out of the way record store. I remember being aged about 10, literally sitting all day with my ear pressed to a little palm sized transistor, waiting to hear specific new records played on Radio 1 (the ONLY place I might do so) ... these days everything is all over the place before you've even had a chance to register its coming into being. (I know this all needs refining, but there is a kernel of something here, isn't there?) ...**

... the look on Syd's face is as if he's has been seized by something Other, possessed by unholy components of Pan (panic, pain, agape)... in the features you can sense De Quincey and Rimbaud; rather than - sorry Momus - Richard Ashcroft and Robert Smith (aaaagrrh! inner silent scweeeeam!). The difference between feeling oneself possessed and pulled and torn by forces just beyond one's control, and styling onself into an imitation rock 'icon' is just vast ... and today's icons want to have it everywhich way - stylishly moody for the rock mags, but Up For It when some mention of footy rears its bruised head...

Can you imagine Syd or Nick Drake turning out for a Celebrity TV Soccer Match?

Their legacy is small but perfectly formed. All told, added up, shorter than some 'double' CDs put out by sub-par artists these days. You can noodle on forever... remix forever...

... even WIRE type Improv Heroes put out a LUDICROUS amount of CDs these days, dont they? It's always struck me as odd that Improv, supposedly so dedicated to the passing flicker, is obsessed like a Kremlin or CIA apparatchick by storing and archiving every last bloody gig and duet and meeting ... it would strike me as far more unsettlingly (and ideologically) 'radical' if it decided to record nothing whatsoever leaving behind just a spectral Borges like map of unimaginable un-ossified possibilities ... then I might be a bit more convinced.

Sorry, I seem to be drifting just a bit, here. Altho', it is all to do with Time. How many of you, like me, have shelves full of Improv CDs that you say to yourself - o, theres all the time in the world, I'll listen to that ... later. (And then put on your favorite tacky 45 of the moment for the fourth time that morning! Or is this just low-rent lazy boned me?)

Syd, Nick et al: we'll never get that golden/uncanny Time back again.
2006: o god, another 12 new 63 minute CDs to sit through... o christ do I really want to sit through a Thom Yorke solo album when the sun is shining and I could play Relics one more time ...?

*{ I'm only surprised yesterday's afternoon delight lucid dream didnt have some ref to Bad Girls characters/scenes gone by, frankly... speaking of which, there ought to be a Penman's Law, which is that, in any Face Off in Bad Girls (or similar hi cultural product: sweaty girls behind bars, I suppose about covers it..), my subconscious will ALWAYS without fail somehow pick the Lesbian to, so to speak, root for ...

**{Philosophical agreement comes from an unlikely source. I just read in The Grauniad's I.T. section , this, from the venerable Dave Lee Travis (!), on the imminent cancellation of T.O.T.P.: "The world has overtaken it [...] People are watching music videos on their mobile phones. The world is just too fast-moving for a programme like Top of the Pops."

posted by Ian 7/14/2006 12:00:00 PM
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My mind was blank - and then I read this apparently unconnected phrase from a day or two ago ("- how did I get here from there?") and it all flooded back in one go: this major major dream I had about or featuring Derrida last night. I'm sure it was full of sage, fatherly or contra-Oedipal advice - but can I remember any of it? No, I cannot. All I can remember are these strange Chinese/Egyptian pictographic photos or representations of Derrida where his face is all feinting sliding smiling lines ...*

Something definitely going on in my U.C. these days; a feed through - a relay link - from all the departed Others ...

And yesterday - how can I put this? - yesterday afternoon, during an afternoon siesta, I had my first ever, uh, dirty lucid dreaming experience ... oh yes, very very haunting erotic set-up and follow-through (so to speak), this deep red velvet & billowing veil mix-up of Celine & Julie Go Boating, Swearengen's brothel in Deadwood and De Sade. (Altho', De Sade not in any S&M-ical sense, but more in the essential theatricality of it all... as tho' Desire were a 'set' we could walk onto or traipse off...**

Starring post-op Kylie as the woman with strange kabalistic symbols taatto'd round her right nipple .... if it had a title it might be 'The Gentle Dominatrix' ... but then again, wouldnt being nice to someone be a surefire way of ensuring you yourself got what you wanted...? I think I recall back in the mists of time I once started writing a vaguely kinky Philip K Dick type allegory about a guy who is haunted by a kind of EMPATH 'Escort' Service woman... who seems to know, in advance, exactly what he likes, wants and desires ... (I'll leave you to supply the relevant allegorical outcome - which will probably say a lot more about you than me, come to think of it...)

But how did bloody Gerard Depardieu get in there? (If I remember rightly, he was skulking outside the window....)

*{ ah... I see... Derrida as the 'face' of grammatology?
**{the 'set' of all phantasies as yet uncontaminated by Real Life consummation?)

posted by Ian 7/14/2006 10:53:00 AM
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These latest developments in Lebanon are so depressing. It's late and I can't think of anything particularly articulate to say about it all - I've actually had horrible total FEAR dreams about this situation in the last week, about its escalation, its apocalyptic potential. Wasn't the occupation of Iraq supposed to have some kind of "domino" peace effect in the Middle East? Weren't civilians throughout the Middle East supposed to be proffered at least the faint and distant hope of lives made easier and safer? There are times when the world of post-modernist theory and reasoned debate and hopeful discourse we inhabit, just seems a literal and metaphorical world away from this abyssal well of hatred and retaliation and blood debt - there seem to be no connecting fibres whatsoever, none. ( I think that was one of the reasons I walked away from this blog the first time around ... prolonged exposure to 'political' reportage and reading matter just ultimately lowered me into this airless and literally hopeless roomful of mirrors, all of them smeared with blood.)

posted by Ian 7/14/2006 01:06:00 AM

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The current Scotland Yard investigation into New Labour's 'cash for peerages' quagmire inadvertantly supplies a further way of looking at 'hauntedness' through digital tech. Rumour has it Scotland Yard has invested in some pretty major software from the States that can track deleted e mail exchanges. There's one e mail in particular that Number 10 fears may come (back) to light. Thus, haunting/haunted by... : something (a bad thing) you thought you had deleted, but that can be retrieved, and shatter your world anew. Something (that is) returned from the Nowhere you had assigned it. It has the same shape/form it did when you annulled its existence, but now, in the present context, that same identity is ten times SCARIER.

Funny, too, to look at all the newspapers yesterday and find Syd's angelic/daimonic visage staring out from the front pages. If any other ex or serving 'member' of Floyd died, would it get such attention? Would it move us one bit? Syd didnt 'die' young, per se, he lived on, he 'survived', after a fashion .. but we remain haunted by True Syd ... a moment of ripeness, rightness, where words tumble like smudgy fruit from a summer hedge. "There is no other way..." We're haunted by some archetype, some myth, here, but what is it? It seems to have some element(s) of Dorian Gray, but in a very confused way...

(It sort of reminds me, guiltily, of the way some of us absent mindedly treat certain once-favourite bands ... I've done it myself with bands like Pere Ubu and Television. You sigh and say 'Didnt they used to be GREAT? Just ... untouchable.' Ignoring the fact that's there's been a regular turn-over of albums in the intervening years: 'Yeah but that's not ... Ubu Ubu, is it?')

Maybe someone could set up a kind of iPick service for the over-40 iPod generation... where you pay someone to listen to to all the regular 'so-so' Van Morrison and Pere Ubu and 'much heralded' Brian Wilson comeback Lps and so forth, and they sort out for you and download to your tech of choice the one or two genuinely head turning tracks that such albums often or usually contain (along with, these days, anything between 50 and 70 odd minutes of durdge. ... Hang on: durdge: is that a word? O, well it is now. It's means: the 50 odd minutes of CD music you NEVER LISTEN TO AGAIN, as opposed to the one or two brilliant golden tracks you play obsessively for a month or two.

As, for instance, on the bound to be forthcoming 'all star' Syd Barrett "Tribute" album(s). There will be 11 tracks by Indie so-so's whose names are so generic that you can't actually remember if you genuinely remember the bands or not, or just seem to (there should be a name for this syndrome as well, the Indie Music equivalent of Phillip K Dick's kipple....), and you will go to throw the CD into the 'Flog or donate to Charity' pile until you remember that ONE GREAT TRACK that somebody obviously recorded when they were having a day of hangover and heartache and damage and All The Pieces Fit ... (which may, partly, be what the Syd Myth is about: a version of madness as rightness rather than wrongness, the pre-madness moment of light at the edges of diurnal turnover, the not so much decline into madness as, temporarily, elevation into madness, as if some sort of election, when it seems a light shines through your gold leaf skin, and vines and tendrils twine around your words... isn't that who Syd most resembes in all those yesterday pix yesterday? A discreet pair of little horns and we would indeed have PAN reborn ... in hipster cords, with eyes that need no make up to look inticingly forlorn and infused with a light that is forever twenty to five on the best summer afternoon, all the afternoons when Good won out over Evil, and Desire arrived in forms benign and inspiring and electrifying and consoling and concise and correct. Isnt that the feeling on tracks like Emily and Arnold - of moments of place and time in English summertime (night and day) when An Other Place seems to smile through the ordinary scene? An eternal smile? An eternal beckoning finger? A strange, awakening quickening scent, that is not so much sulphur as ... some kind of riverside, under-tree musk, the smell of bodies intertwined for a whole afternoon, or how the ozone of the SEA hits you if you run out onto the deserted sands at midnight, having somehow got the combination of drink and drug and mood and set and setting just right ...?

('Bike' may be one of the best ever Trip songs in that sense - in the sense that it doesnt strain and strain and strain for 20 or 30 minutes for portenous significance, doesnt try to condense the birth and death of the universe into a sound effect strewn sub-Garcia guitar sprawl, but instead contents itself - perfectly - with capturing that onset moment when you look in your friends eyes and all know the drug has hit simultaneously and suddenly all there is is LAUGHTER at EVERYTHING and ANYTHING.... and you think, I must write this down, wow, now, now wow, because this is ... this is ... so... so SO, and but it is generally and genuinely A Very Bad Idea, tho, because you will find that if you do ever write it down, what you will find next day in a haggard free wheeling scribble, is something very like ... 'I've got a BIKE!!!!!! And i can ... RIDE IT!!!!!! A Bi SEA - SKULL!!! !!!! With ... (get this!) BELLS!' Etc . That Barrett managed to do this, and make somethng that sounded both silly and serious, hopeful and doomed, simple and complex, light hearted and damned... it's seriously wonderful, and properly inimitable.

posted by Ian 7/13/2006 08:20:00 AM

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Double-You Oh! O.D. I'm a Moody Should Be ...

Sleep, after reading Mark-P's latest e-SP-istle, and then a few pages of Walter Benjamin on Karl Kraus (intra-changeably, the Theorist and the Journalist), and then a few grains of this or that, and then the usual pre-sleep human+feline threesome amidst the loving arms & whiskers of Buckley and Belle... and then this strange uncannny dream ... a copy of Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits, a spoonful of blood, German bread and Trappist ale (midnight snack of grainy Heidegger and liquid theology?)... then a story of a boy... stretched over lazy hazy decades ... starts out a Stalinist punk ... plays a few gigs... disappears ... then on and off down the years ... retreat/advance retrait/advance ... always the cusp of potential ... before retreating back into solitary refinement ... never quite fulfilling the expected potential but always hints and traces of what could be... hints of some sublime Song or text to come ... but also always rumours of drugs and other excuses or do I mean excesses or the Other way round ... white powders and PUBlic discourse ... all those hours spent hanging around, dredging around, throwing it down ... all those winters of smoke and mirrors ... when you should have been working a way back (through Cuts, Tracks & Bruises) ... back to ... who? OK, always a few acolytes longing for your return, convinced you're onto something... but each time I forgo work and fall into a lullingly comfortingly artifical sleep, I feel suspended like Aretha Luxemburg...

...and I wake, pen poised in hand like the lightest unlit cigarette... ready to take down the latest dictation... something about a DIALectic of sound ... and the difference between David Sylvian's Blemish and Scritti's Bread ... but it's gone, gone like a gold disc to the pawn shop ...

I dont know, but why does this boy's own story sound or feel so familiar ...?
Is it me, or -?

posted by Ian 7/12/2006 12:56:00 PM
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From interview with Seth Lloyd (a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, and "among the pioneers of quantum computing"):

TR: Programming the Universe concludes with a personal note. You describe how your friend Heinz Pagels, a renowned physicist, fell to his death while hiking with you in Colorado. You find some consolation in your theory of universal quantum computation: "But we have not entirely lost him. While he lived, Heinz programmed his own piece of the universe. The resulting computation unfolds in us and around us ..."

Lloyd: Well, it's pretty poor consolation when someone you love is dead. But it's a truer consolation than the idea that one day you might meet him in heaven.

I like that description - "While he lived, Heinz programmed his own piece of the universe. The resulting computation unfolds in us and around us" - and it made me think about those Coil dreams I mention below in a new light. Very few people have actually made me regard the universe in a new way, and J.B. was definitely one of them... {might it not also be a chink of syntactic or taxonomical light into a new way of thinking about what it is to be or feel "haunted"... ? Someway between an essentially 18th or 19th century conception of "haunting" and "ghosts" ... and our own more 21st century ripples about "hauntology" in this new digital paradigm we inhabit? "Haunting" as unprocessed information, an excess or - what's the phrase? - overload. Return of the repressed - but return(ed) like a loop or scratch. This is the feeling I get in certain dreams - that essentially the Same piece of 'information' is being returned to me (YOU HAVE ONEIRIC MAIL!) over and over again, until I 'get' it. It plays out as a 'scene', in a kind of theatrical or rather cinematic way. Script/scrypt. Script in computer lingo. scrIPt. (Ny Name is Internet Protocal.) Encryption. Iancryptian. Egyptian. Computer 'language' as a 'programme' like Crowley's being 'haunted' (becoming a 'receiver' for) the Aiwass proto-CALL in Cairo, 1904.

Yikes! How did I get here - from there?
But it does ring true, in a resonantly free-associative LOOPy sort of way:- Crowley as proto HACKER. hacking into aeons (and e-offs) of 'information' - recessed, (almost literally) encrypted 'information'. Pictogrammic. Cryptic. Coptic. (Who told me that Enochian and Coptic were very similar? Dee and Kelley as proto hackers also... staring into a black screen, waiting for the angelic download to come ... Dee as the original 'Dr John'! Loop Garou!) Schizophonic... ah yes, which takes us nicely back around (in another parallel loop) to Avital Ronell, and her wonderful Telephone Book ... many of whose 'messages' are still waiting to be be 'picked up' ...

Full article HERE ...

posted by Ian 7/12/2006 11:04:00 AM

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Mention of Coil (in a comment-on-a-comment BELOW} reminded me that I had a long and preternaturally detailed dream about them last night; and I actually managed to scribble down a few of the details... some of which still make sense, some of which are now utterly obscure.
I can remember, in the dream, Jhon Balance talking (with a big lovely grin on his face) about "messy ass" sex practices, and how someone called "Ashley" (ASS-ly?) was worried by his sticking to these practices and wanted him to stop. (The grin seemed to suggest 'As if!') I can remember I had written a huge article, or even a small book, about him and Coil, and that there was a lot of discussion about finding the right title, and that one of the rejected titles (which I liked - "I think the title is perfect" - but no one else did) was 'Desperate Measures'; another one had something to do with 'Dark Nights'.

But Mercury alone knows what the notation "Blonde on Blonde / David Keenan / cats" refers to ...

There's been about a half-a-dozen or more of these Coil dreams of late.
Dictation from the Beyond, any one?

posted by Ian 7/11/2006 03:39:00 PM
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R.I.P. , Syd Barrett.

posted by Ian 7/11/2006 02:49:00 PM
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I'm afraid Green seems to have turned into something of a Morrisey figure for me - which is to say, predominantly, that I find him far more interesting to read about than pleasurable to listen to; I find the relentlessness of that urgle-gurgle honeyed goo-goo voice just a bit much to take these days, like being force fed Sunny D and cherry liquer chockies and ickle mini jellies all at once; over and over again; for 50 minutes. If I want suspended yucky loveliness, well, I'll just listen to that surprisingly wonderful Lilly Allen 45 - which, when I finally heard it, really took me by surprise: a beatifully judged slice of classic summery Lovers Rock. Instantly effortlessly addictive, too.

Even after months and months now, the only Scritti track that has registered at all with me is 'The Boom Boom Bap'; and that, only partially: it feels somehow as if it was taken three fifths of the way along to being a great Summer single and then abandoned. Which some SP-obsessives will doubtless claim is The Whole Point - but don't you sometimes get the feeling they're reading a world of post-Semiotexte perplexity and angst into a situation which rather more neatly comes down to someone being a big bag of Lazy Bones? (And believe me, that's a syndrome I know a little bit about, t-hee...)

I mean, I don't really get this thing people have for tracking down meaning (or even, Gawd help us, meanings about the absence of meaning) along the interstices of even the slenderest Scritti home-studio out-take. Isn't there a point when meaning-FIXation can become as deletiriously addictive a high as crack or meth? O well - whatever lights up your BIC....

{NB: when I wrote the above I had read MarK-P's hymn of adoration to the new Prolitti - which, like I obliquely say, gave me precisely 43.5 times more pleasure than actually listening to the Thing Itself - but I hadnt read Simon's latest, uh ... Simon, you dont think you ought to be careful you're not turning into an actual Green, um, stalker, do you?

{{PS 2: I guess the problem I have with the Scritti album is that it's 50 odd minutes of unrelieved sweetness or blah blah yes "veiling unveiling", call it how you will. What I personally find intoxicating, as I indicated once before, is something like the screwier productions of the late DJ Screw, where you have this back-prop or SCANtext of real onyx- "hard" "black" "real" street gritty Rap, which is then transssduced through a scree and torsion of deliriously ambiphonic distress-FX... almost comically distresing and trippy at times (just like the best Lee Scratch Perry productions, in fact), all these Hard or Sexy voices phasing 'in' and 'out' of pitch, a drip drop cascade which still has the fuck-steady metronome of Tha Beat as a counterpoint behind it, this Other Night that doesnt go away just because you've fucked your own damn fool self up inside with all that naaasty linctus n shit you took n hour earlier...

The paradox of Mark-P and Simon's reading and re-reading of Green, it is beginning to seem to me, is that it is precisely THROUGH all their talk of the veiling-unveiling Disappearing "I" that they spoil the ILLusion and put Green's authorial "I" back centre stage: from an appreciation of a slippery text per se, they actually re route everything back to how smart n cool and suss Green is to do all this stuff (it strikes me at times as a kind of quasi narcissistic sigh on the critics part, like, 'O, this is PRECISELY the sort of stuff I'd probably make if I was a musician...') It almost ends up being the thing it is in concerted retreat from - that old fashioned Literate type criticism which made heroes of post-Dylan singer songwriters because they were so good with ... WORDS.

Whereas, I feel, with Screw, it all threatens to get away from you, it is genuinely fucked up, it's kinda like, "Let's Get It On... uh, oops, baby, slipped up, Let's Try Again ..." the surge and wash and unpredictable MOOD jacitation of the drug-as technology and technology-as drug and Song as infintely extendable expandable reducible field for both to mesh n play (drugs fucking technology, technlogy as sexy steeetched echo of drug swoon)... uh, sorry, lost my own thread there. Got away from me. DAMN.

(Then again, maybe I just dont like the carbo relentlessness of G's voice. That simple?
I tends to get this thing for women's voices. Current pash: Anne Briggs e.g. ... "Blackwater Side." My my my my MY. I can just shove that on REPEAT and listen to it ALL mo(u)rning ...

I cam across this interview with AVITAL RONELL {one of the few remaining or current 'theorists' I still have a taste or enthusiasm or mania for), and her answer to the the opening Q: -

Do you consider yourself a "writer"?

A. In a certain way that question might be too masculinist for me because it suggests some kind of volition, agency, control at the wheel of fortuna or destiny. I would say that I have figured myself as a kind of secretary of the phantom. I take dictation ... -

I find interesting in this context. Do some of us comfort ourselves with the thought of an extant Green, precisely "because it suggests some kind of volition, agency, control at the wheel of fortuna or destiny"? Or rather, at the wheel of Pop? Is it too frightening otherwise, to admit that the best Pop is instead, happenstance, anonymous, borderline tacky? And not the product of some kind of "higher" consideration as per Scritti?

FOOTNOTE, Wednesday.
Well, I tried Bread+Beer for breakfast again this morning, but sorry guys, I'm still finding Green more intersting to read than actually listen to... talking of which THIS strikes me as one of the most interesting Q&A's I've read thus far I think... funny that Syd Barrett gets a mention out of the blue... and just one minor minor historical niggle to put straight. Green says that back in the pre-punk day Peel never really played any "black music" - which is not true. I remember as a feverish 14,15,16 year old rushing out to scour down or order up specific Import 45s Peel played to death, I can still actually recall specific records, like Johnny Taylor's fanbloodyTAStic Stax comeback 45 "I've Been Born Again" ("I THINK I'm gonna start me a FIRE!") and other stuff by Z.Z. Hill and Betty (wife yes of Miles) Davis, amongst others.

posted by Ian 7/11/2006 09:53:00 AM

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That PLW quote yesterday got me wondering ... whether it isn't precisely the huge volume of stories about Blair and Bush that somehow protects them, that is its own shiny slick Coat of Babel ... how many times in the past few years have you turned on the TV to hear all the Westminster pundits earnestly and solemnly discussing whether "Mr Blair could survive this latest blah blah blah" ...? As tho politics werent the art of "survival", of living on borrowed time. Bush and Blair both have walked charmlessly unconcerned through 'scandals' that would have rocked previous administrations to the flaky core; both have perfected this Not Listening Grin, a grin that is half Idiot Boy and half Takin Care uh Business... which is only right, really. If they had to read everything that was written about them these days they would never do anything else. There's not a hint of a leak of the tiniest who-cares piss-stain 'scandal' these days (Cherie demands fee, Number 10 sells autographed Kelly report, etc etc etc) before there's pro-columns and then anti columns written abut the pro columns and then anti pro anti-anti columns ... and then reasoned round-ups of all the opposing arguments... we have to tune-out, or we'd wig out.

(I remember once on the old 42 bus I used to take from Camberwell into town in the early 80s, this old wild eyed dosser, Special Brew aura, cardboard bricolage coat, bristly mutter mutter, and as we passed the Houses of Parliament he cackled like the Tour Guide from Hell: "Aaach! A thousand barking DOGS!" )

One of the reasons people got momentarily misty eyed about
Spitting Image recently was that it reminded them of a time when - like the old music press - there was A Weekly Moment when things crystallised, or seemed to, when you had to see what "They" would Say About It, whether It was some political gaffe or the new Clash LP.

But even if there were a "Sex Pistols" style irruption on the horizon tomorrow, it would only be "exciting" for a few ... hours? a couple of days? , before it was insecapably "everywhere". A G2 cover. A Yahoo News Story. A More 4 i-dent. A Heat cover. Their "revolutionary" new sound used as music for the latest i-POD advert. ...
Everywhere and ... Nowhere.
You wouldnt have to "wait" to see what the hip (London) people had to say about it, because 43,000 web sites and blogs would already have exhausted you with every possible P.O.V.
You would have maybe done your own remix of their unreleased hot 45 before the "big" record companies had even got their hands on anything about them.

Thats the problem with Temporary Autonmous Zones: some of 'em are going to be a lot more temporary than others. And one of the paradoxes about being an exciting buzz on the margins - as Dubstep is at the moment say (+ e.g., everyone from Goldie to So Solid to Dizzee Rascal, not to mention all the post-Docherty Antic Monkeys in the last few years*) - is that your conventional first move (in a mini interview given to a fan-site fanzine say) is to diss the 'mainstream' media and complain about how they dont check you out or take you seriously. The problem is (and this is especially true of the myriad subsets of post-E or post-Rap or post-Garage idiomatics), the moment your collectivity-based day-to-day pre-release 12" dubplate existence IS taken seriously by the 'mainstream' media and you are suddenly Q&A'd and profiled and photographed to kingdom come, then whatever the (im)pulse that fed into your monomanical Take No Prisoners project, it immediately seems to scatter and dizzipate... the energy of collective aspiration sort of goes ppppft, and deflates somehow.

(I mean: ONE of you is just naturally going to be far more of a stand-out photogenic bigmouth media darlin than the others, isn't it? Although, paradoxically, the odds are that same media darling will end up broke and perplexed and Prozac'd, and hiring lawyers to sort out endless disputes over image rights to an Image that died 5 years ago; while the 'quiet one' of the crew will be making millions doing background music in Hollwyood for the CSI franchise and cutting edge Nike adverts, & the like...)

If you take East/South London rap/grime/garage/etc as a paradigm, it is essentially rhizomatic, slightly but not completey 'underground', a constant clamour + buzz of constantly updated ways of routing and re-routing (not rooting) that clamour, klangoour and rewind buzz... constantly twisted and shaded and undercut ways of telling the same local stories in a brash bright-light new way. (The paradigm pretty much remains JA sound system clashes. 'DIS HERE the sound that goes around. Alll the other sound STAAAAND down!') Constantly updating your response to the snap of tomorrow and the haunt of whats gone before. But how to reconcile the local with the national?

I'm sure that a lot of people will prefer Dubstep to Grime, precisely because all the inescapably 'local' accents have been stripped from its surface.
("Dis ah LOCAL trend for dem LOCAL bwoy!": League of GrimeBwoy Dem!) All the wide boy boast and toast and titter and paranoid squeak - well, it's entertaining for a song or two, but maybe not en masse; me, frankly, I get enough of that already on the N7 street where I live (12 year olds with sloppy waist jeans around their bollocks making with the 'goat stare' at me demanding a Respect they barely know the spelling, never mind the meaning of; schizophonic neighbours giving marijuana-Mussolini speeches from their balconies that somehow manage to conflate Bush, Blair and "jungle muuuuuuuusiiiiic!"; constant swear and spit and yell and laughter and "Hofficer it was NAT ME..."; scooter whine and football chant and Friday night panic and crack dealer crab walk whispah ...) - so when I shut the door I dont want it bouncing out my speakers again.

At the same time - even tho' I personally prefer Dustep to Grime**, I suspect that Grime 's "fate" - that it will just pop like a pimple and disappear, or mutate into some sarky and cheap and sulky and naaasty "new" variant - is by far the better option than what will probably happen toDubstep ... Mercury Prizes, concept albums, jazz rock noodle time on Jools Holland, MASS ACCLAIM... a thousand points of media light.

An unsparing, sapping light.

... I was just idly wondering if maybe Tricky wasnt the first 'victim' of all this, maybe? )

**{(Altho I have to say that sometimes, 40 minutes into a 70 minute CD like the Burial one - which has some achingly wistful and shatteringly haunting tracks -I do kind of feel the dread words AMBIENT DUB slowly creeping up on me and tap tap taping me on the ear lobe, I'm sorry, but I do, and I have the tapes from 94 and 95 to prove it; you just need to notch up the RPMs a bit in some cases... Not that any comparisons with 'Ambient Dub' necessarily constitute any kind of low slur; I played those compilations - 'Ambient Dub' Volumes 1-3' - to death at the time.

posted by Ian 7/05/2006 07:34:00 AM

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More, re Zizek.
Maybe my fear is that with Lacan and Derrida and others, you were forced to engage with it on its own terms - it was difficult, almost alien to begin with. You had to work through it, and that could take months, years, decades even; and in the process of doing this work, you would find changes in your self taking place, almsot imperceptibly, but gradually, until your whole way of looking at the world (not just Groovy Movies) changed. And what I fear or am suspicious of in Zizek is that it is Lite Age theory, Theory Lite (ironic, given what Zizek himself has said about such things in the past), where we are given the End Result, without having to do any of the work ourselves. See, look here, at this dizzying scene from a sexy dark movie like Mulholland Drive or The Matrix - "we can see clearly here" that this "illustrates" Lacan's notion that X = petit a. Or whatever. And new viewers or readers can go - 'Ah, great, that's that and that's that out of the way then...' Or, if they proceed to "do it themselves" then it just becomes an all too easy filter you stretch across The Next Groovy Movie, to produce an all too effortless 'Zizekian' or 'Lacanian' "reading" ...

I was thinking all this while/after reading this illuminating interview with Peter Lamborn Wilson from a few years back...

PLW: "I would say that I think there really does have to be a refusal of what's called "information" on behalf of what we might call "knowledge," or even "wisdom" if you wanted to use dangerous words. My personal response to this is to refuse the data. You know, how much more do I need to know? Do I really need to know over and over and over again that governments are bad and that human beings are made to suffer? Do I need to know a thousand new details about the ways in which poor humanity is being stepped on once again? Is that really news? It's also a psychological truth that information that you don't work for, that you don't go after, that you don't struggle to get, really doesn't mean very much to you on a deep level. So when you can press a button and get 6,000 hits -- and you saw the same thing happening after 09/11, it doesn't take any work at all, not the least bit of effort, not even physical effort -- so what is it going to mean ultimately, to the development of your higher consciousness shall we say? I don't think it means very much. In fact I think it can have a paradoxical counter effect, which is that the more of this information you take in, the darker things get. I call it the "lite age" as opposed to the dark ages. A situation where you have all the information all the time -- completely accessible -- where in other words there are no secrets, or there's a perception that there are no secrets, that there's no information that we can't get. This kind of false omnipotence, this superman of information. It's an image that we all have of ourselves now, in the age where nothing remains, well, secret, where there are no mysteries. In this way, there is also no knowledge: None of these data have any more value than any of the other data. It's never processed into knowledge. And knowledge is never processed into wisdom. So, yes, I think that you do actually have to refuse, or at least to a certain extent. Years ago a friend of mine called it "media fasting." The idea is that in order to overcome the difficulties that certainly the unconscious gets into when you just immerse yourself in this data flow night and day, you just have to stop, at least for some time. My solution in recent months was to limit myself to print, which is poisonous enough, believe me, really poisonous, and I can only imagine how awful the electronic media must be...."

posted by Ian 7/04/2006 01:41:00 PM
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OK, I'm going to say just what I am thinking about that Zizek prog last night while I am still half asleep and not really censoring myself; you know, say what you really think, as if your analyst just said, oh, drop the college professor bullshit, what did it make you feel...?

Well, my first thought is: I can remember both too much and too little about it.
On the one hand, in comparison with something like Lacan's Television (and a couple of other lectures, which I was somehow awake and canny enough to VHS in the mid 80s when C4 used to show stuff like that where now it'd be a ha-ha panel game with Jimmy Carr) or the couple of Derrida 'appearances' I have on tape ("so I say 'vivre les phantoms!'") it struck me as Fast Food Theory; it went down without touching the sides. It snagged no part of me. Whereas I have spent 20 years returning to L & D, returning, working out, being haunted by, I had forgotten SZ in 12 hours. Well, apart from the zingy two-liners I wish I could forget but can't, like that closing comparison of the cinema screen to a toilet bowl, which wasn't the first time in the programme I started to wonder if the real Zizek that everyone worships was tied up in a basement (or, 'abasement'?) somewhere and this whole Perverts Guide To Cinema was a Paul Whitehouse piss-take. (Like some of those wonderfully accurate "Mmmm: nice" Jazz Club skits.) I know we are supposed to be above such things and shouldnt mention it, but what's with the cheap false teeth or whatever it is causes him to pronounce all his Sz as SH's? ("Show we sheee clearly wish SHyco...") and means that he comes across as even more of a cliche Whacky Euro Prof than he would anyway? I might not have mentioned it if he himself hadnt spent so much time talking about how we get hung up on voices etc as bloody 'partial autonomous objects'... and boy, but his own deeply distracting voice had the most schpittily autonomous life of its own...

I guess what really ticks me off, the real difference, is that Lacan and Derrida seem to speak from somewhere else, an elsewhere they give no easy map directions for you to uncover, but which you want to spend time getting to. Whereas Zizek says all those things that academics say that IMMEDIATELY put me on my gaurd as a non-academic: he uses "we" and "us" all the time, without ever specifying who this might be, until you start to suspect that the sole use of the "we/us" module in academic discourse is plainly to make sound reasonable postulations that if uttered as "I believe..." - as in "I clearly believe that we're talking about a toilet bowl here..." or, "I will now use the word 'netherworld' for the fourth time in 10 minutes..." - would seem as fundamentally daft or give-away as they in fact are. And even tho his whole discourse is supposed to be about destabilising mainstream certainty about taken-for-granted things in our life, if you listen or read carefully, the texture of his discourse is made up of hundreds of unproven assertions, a constant mantra in fact, a cross between a crooning seduction and a would be Authoritarian master. "We are clearly in Hitchock territory here..." "We immediately see here..." Hundreds of 'em, on and on and on and on.

But most of all, I have a block. I just cannot get past - fundamentally - the way Zizek and the whole post-Lacanian pro-Zizekian estate, the way they talk about movie characters as if they were real autonmous beings. I dont know what this shift - from talking about psychoanalysis in terms of case studies, in terms of real messy troubled pain filled human subjects and their illogical ways; to talking about Psychoanalysis in terms of the most obvious groovy movies you happened to see lately, as if they were illustrations of real life - signifies, but it makes me deeply suspicious.

(It's at points like this I truly wish I could take the next obvious catty step, like my old colleague Julie Burchill... A step that is at once chastening and bitchy and somehow 99.9% logical, and say something like - and I can just hear her beautiful voice, here, now - "He's just a stupid old man with a beard Penman, who's too scared of women and how messy and illogical they are to deal with them in real life so he becomes a fetishising old movie queen like all the other creepy hobbyhorse bores ... They get into this S&M relationship with American culture and can't admit they just LOVE this OTT sexy stuff like the rest of us old perverts, so they have to draw all these academic castles in the air around it - like you said about Zappa in that brilliant peice, Penman. You're right to have a go at his lisp Penman - no one forced him to neglect the revolution and go on TV with his sexy young go ahead director and her team. Probably thought it'd get him laid - AS IF!!! [Throaty gurgle of JB laughter here.] He's unbelievable, Penman, like a Steve Coogan joke. The Saxondale of Sex/Cult studies! Camille Paglia's BEARDY BEARD...!" and then a wonderful wonderful peal of liberating out-loud laughter.... )

I just can't picture Lacan, somehow, spending an hour of his (and our) time pretending that he knows whats going on in Norman Bates head - or rather, pretending that pretending to know what's going on in Norman Bates head is the mark of a what passes for genius and insight in 2006. Lacan had a word for people who thought they knew what was going on in Movie Characters heads (but probably not their own): they were called PSYCHOTICS (not the much sexier and pitch-selling "PERVERT", oh no) and they never stop PROJECTING. Zizek is a bit like Hitchcock, a bit disappointed by the shabbiness of (his own) Real Life, so tying up all these sexy unreal reel-life blondes in endless loops and bonds and bindings ... except SZ does it with the etiolated lingo of post-Lacanian studies. (I can't help but think he's some kind of unreconstucted Cold War nostalgic, somehow, too, always reading messages for double meanings, on one side sexy blondes with tits like zeppelins in angora jumpers who might be a bit, you know, dominatrixy with you Behind Closed Doors, and on the other a world of Lenin and the sexiness of SamiZdat imports in brown paper covers, always a double meaning to eveything, always a shadow or a code or a clue. And "we" in Zizek are always sitting together in the dark, waiting for the slapstick or sexy Godot of film to appear out of a redemptive Nowhere. Somehow, I always feel as if Zizek is sitting in a Drive In Theater somewhere ... in a car with improbably big, uh, tail fins... (this might be complete bullshit, this lazily 'speculative' line of thought. But N.B. how I preface it not with "We see clearly that Zizek..." but "I..." )

More anon., maybe.
{But Christ if I have to read or hear that beating-yourself-up-before-the-Other-as-liberating-paradigm example from The Fight Club ONE MORE TIME I'll tear his bloody beard out by the roots...

posted by Ian 7/04/2006 09:54:00 AM

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